WASHINGTON - A company in the United Arab Emirates is poised to take over significant operations at six American ports as part of a corporate sale, leaving a country with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers with influence over a maritime industry considered vulnerable to terrorism.
The Bush administration considers the UAE an important ally in the fight against terrorism since the suicide hijackings and is not objecting to Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
The $6.8 billion sale is expected to be approved Monday. The British company is the fourth largest ports company in the world and its sale would affect commercial U.S. port operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
DP World said it won approval from a secretive U.S. government panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry.
The U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States "thoroughly reviewed the potential transaction and concluded they had no objection," the company said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The committee earlier agreed to consider concerns about the deal as expressed by a Miami-based company, Eller & Co., according to Eller's lawyer, Michael Kreitzer. Eller is a business partner with the British shipping giant but was not in the running to buy the ports company.
The committee, which could have recommended that
President Bush block the purchase, includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, State and
The State Department describes the UAE as a vital partner in the fight against terrorism. But the UAE, a loose federation of seven emirates on the Saudi peninsula, was an important operational and financial base for the hijackers who carried out the attacks against New York and Washington, the
Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record), a Democrat whose district includes the New York port, urged the administration to consider the sale carefully.
"America's busiest ports are vital to our economy and to the international economy, and that is why they remain top terrorist targets," Schumer said. "Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties."
Last month, the White House appointed a senior DP World executive, David C. Sanborn of Virginia, to be the new administrator of the Maritime Administration of the Transportation Department. Sanborn worked as DP World's director of operations for Europe and Latin America.
Critics of the proposed purchase said a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security's already limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors.
"When you have a foreign government involved, you are injecting foreign national interests," Kreitzer said. "A country that may be a friend of ours today may not be on the same side tomorrow. You don't know in advance what the politics of that country will be in the future."
Shipping experts noted that many of the world's largest port companies are not based in the U.S., and they pointed to DP World's strong economic interest in operating ports securely and efficiently.
"Does this pose a national security risk? I think that's pushing the envelope," said Stephen E. Flynn, who studies maritime security at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "It's not impossible to imagine one could develop an internal conspiracy, but I'd have to assign it a very low probability."
Changing management over the U.S. ports "doesn't offer al-Qaida any opportunities it doesn't have now," said James Lewis, who worked with the U.S. committee at the State and Commerce departments. "It's in Dubai's interest to make sure this runs well. There is strong economic incentive to be sure these worries never materialize."
Flynn and others said even under foreign control, U.S. ports will continue to be run by unionized American employees. "You're not going have a bunch of UAE citizens working the docks," Flynn said. "They're longshoremen, vested in high-paying jobs. Most of them are Archie Bunker-kind of Americans."
Peninsular and Oriental and DP World set approval by the U.S. security committee as a condition for the sale. In regulatory papers, the companies said either the committee must agree not to formally investigate the purchase or Bush must not move to block the sale for national security purposes.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI has said the money for the strikes was transferred to the hijackers primarily through the UAE's banking system, and much of the operational planning for the attacks took place inside the UAE.
Many of the hijackers traveled to the U.S. through the UAE. Also, the hijacker who steered United Airlines flight into the World Trade Center's south tower, Marwan al-Shehhi, was born in the UAE.
After the attacks, U.S.
Treasury Department officials complained about a lack of cooperation by the UAE and other Arab countries trying to track
Osama bin Laden's bank accounts.
WASHINGTON - After mounting opposition by lawmakers, President Bush said Tuesday that the deal allowing an Arab company to take over six major U.S. seaports should go forward and that he would veto any congressional effort to stop it.
“After careful review by our government, I believe the transaction ought to go forward,”
[B]– The UAE was one of three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.[/B]
[B]– The UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Lybia.[/B]
[B]– According to the FBI, money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system.[/B]
[B]– After 9/11, the Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden’s bank accounts.[/B]
Iraq, was falsely accused by the administration to have ties to AQ so we invaded them and toppled their government. UAE also looks like they have ties to AQ, so what does Bush do? Rewards them with a contract to secure OUR Ports. But hey, why shouldnt he, I mean after all it [I]i[I]s[/I] [/I] money in [B]his [/B] pocket
For the past several years, I've been condemned as an "extremist" for advocating nationality profiling -- unapologetically applying stricter scrutiny to terror-sponsoring and terror-sympathizing countries in our entrance, immigration and security policies.
Now, mirabile dictu, some of the same Democrats who have routinely lambasted such profiling are rushing to the floors of Congress and in front of TV cameras espousing these very same policies. The impetus: the White House's boneheaded insistence on ramming through a $7 billion deal giving United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World control over significant operations at six major American ports in New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Miami.
Make no mistake. I stand with critics on both sides of the aisle who want to stop the secretive deal transferring operations of our ports to the UAE -- a Middle Eastern government with a spotty record of fighting terrorist plots and terrorist financing. The issue is not whether day-to-day, on-the-ground conditions at the ports would change. The issues are whether we should grant the demonstrably unreliable UAE access to sensitive information and management plans about our key U.S. ports, which are plenty insecure enough without adding new risks, and whether the decision process was thorough and free from conflicts of interest.
From every angle -- political, safety and sovereignty-wise -- Dubai Ports World's business transaction (made possible by an unprecedented $3.5 billion Islamic financing instrument called a "sukuk" that upholds sharia law) looks bad and smells worse.
But there is a teachable moment here that shouldn't be missed. The tone-deafness of the White House is bad. The craven political opportunism of the Democrats is worse.
Listen to Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat: "I think we've got to look into this company. I think we've got to ensure ourselves that the American people's national-security interests are going to be protected. And frankly, I think the threshold ought to be a little higher for a foreign firm."
And Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat: "It is ridiculous to say you're taking secret steps to make sure that it's OK for a nation that had ties to 9/11, (to) take over part of our port operations in many of our largest ports. This has to stop."
And Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat: "Our port security is too important to place in the hands of foreign governments. I will be working with [New Jersey] Senator [Robert] Menendez to introduce legislation that will prohibit the sale of ports to foreign governments."
And Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, who said the Dubai company's involvement "is enough to raise a flag -- at least to do a thorough review, at minimum."
I wish these politicians luck in their quest to block the UAE transfer, shed light on the process led by the shadowy Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and join with congressional Republicans to put American security interests first. But as they attempt to do their best Pat Buchanan impressions, let's not forget:
It was Democrats who tried to block Bush administration efforts to impose common-sense citizenship requirements on airport security workers in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
It was Democrats who attacked the Bush Justice Department after the September 11 attacks for fingerprinting young male temporary visa holders traveling from terror-sponsoring and terror-friendly nations; temporarily detaining asylum seekers from high-risk countries for background screening; and sending undercover agents to investigate mosques suspected of supporting terrorism.
It was Democrats who secretly attempted to remove funding for the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System -- the Justice Department program that helped nab at least 330 known foreign criminals, 15 illegal-alien felons and three known terrorists who attempted to enter the country.
And just one week ago, it was failed Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore who was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, attacking the Bush administration's profiling and immigration enforcement against illegal aliens from terror-friendly countries as "terrible abuses."
Perhaps the UAE will be hiring Gore to condemn the "abusive" practices now being championed by his fire-breathing extremist Democrat colleagues?
After all, they are all red flag-raising, threshold-hiking, thorough review-espousing, foreign ownership-banning profilers now.
Bush Didn't Know About Ports Deal By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer
36 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - President Bush was unaware of the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates until the deal already had been approved by his administration, the White House said Wednesday.
Defending the deal anew, the administration also said that it should have briefed Congress sooner about the transaction, which has triggered a major political backlash among both Republicans and Democrats.
Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration's earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.
But Lawmakers determined to capsize the pending sale said Bush's surprise veto threat won't deter them.
"I will fight harder than ever for this legislation, and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. King and Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record) of New York said they will introduce emergency legislation to suspend the ports deal.
Another Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, urged his colleagues to force Bush to wield his veto, which Bush — in his sixth year in office — has never done. "We should really test the resolve of the president on this one because what we're really doing is securing the safety of our people."
White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Wednesday the UAE company, Dubai Ports, "is a reputable firm that went through a congressionally approved vetting process." He said the U.S. has "the necessary safeguards to make sure that the security of our country is in place" and that rejecting the deal would send "a dangerous signal to people overseas that America plays favorites."
"The president wants this deal to go forward because it was followed by the book and he wants Congress to understand that," Bartlett said on CBS' "The Early Show." He told Fox News Channel that Bush felt strongly that "we need to be adding strategic partners" in the Mideast.
But Sen. Joseph Biden (news, bio, voting record), D-Del., said the bipartisan opposition to the deal indicated "a lack of confidence in the administration" on both sides. "Sure, we have to link up with our Arab friends but ... we want to see and those in Congress want to know what ... safeguards are built in," Biden said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
The first-ever sale involving U.S. port operations to a foreign, state-owned company is set to be completed in early March. It would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward," Bush said.
Defending his decision, Bush responded to a chorus of objections this week in Congress over potential security concerns in the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
Bush's veto threat sought to quiet a political storm that has united Republican governors and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee with liberal Democrats, including New York Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Schumer.
To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily. The Coast Guard also said it was nearly finished inspecting Dubai Ports' facilities in the United States.
Frist said Tuesday, before Bush's comments, that he would introduce legislation to put the sale on hold if the White House did not delay the takeover. He said the deal raised "serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asked the president for a moratorium on the sale until it could be studied further. "We must not allow the possibility of compromising our national security due to lack of review or oversight by the federal government," Hastert said.
Bush took the rare step of calling reporters to his conference room on Air Force One after returning from a speech in Colorado. He also stopped to talk before television cameras after he returned to the White House.
"I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction," the president said. "But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."
A senior executive from Dubai Ports World pledged the company would agree to whatever security precautions the U.S. government demanded to salvage the deal. Chief operating officer Edward "Ted" H. Bilkey promised Dubai Ports "will fully cooperate in putting into place whatever is necessary to protect the terminals."
Bush said protesting lawmakers should understand that if "they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."
[QUOTE][B]Bush Didn't Know About Ports Deal[/B][/QUOTE]
Why should he know about it. After all he is only the President?
BTW, Do you really believe that he didnt know? Come on , now. Of course he knew. If he didnt know, why the FUC* was he so vehement in supporting it and threatening to use his only veto on this? This is classic Bush, when the $h!t hits the fan and your stupid decisions are made public , plead ignorance. The man is such a weasel!
[QUOTE=kennyo7]Why should he know about it. After all he is only the President?
BTW, Do you really believe that he didnt know? Come on , now. Of course he knew. If he didnt know, why the FUC* was he so vehement in supporting it and threatening to use his only veto on this? This is classic Bush, when the $h!t hits the fan and your stupid decisions are made public , plead ignorance. The man is such a weasel![/QUOTE]
Exactly, this is a blatant CYA move. They're all weasels, without exception.